Defensive tackle John Gill played four seasons for the Northwestern Wildcats, appearing in 48 games with 41 starts, posting 160 tackles, 23 tackles for loss, ten sacks, nine quarterback hurries, five passes defended, and one blocked kick.
He was not invited to the Combine in February, but Scout.com's Ed Thompson told ColtPower.com, and another source confirmed that the Colts had Gill work out at the Colts' headquarters in late March. He also helped his draft stock by putting forth an impressive workout at his Pro Day on March 12th.
AP Photo/Jerry Lai
Measuring in at 6-feet-3 and 302 pounds, he flashed his athletic ability with a time of 4.9 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Perhaps more remarkable for a man of his size, he ran the short shuttle in 4.4 seconds, showcasing his short area quickness and lateral movement.
He also had 29 reps on the 225-pound bench press, which would have ranked him tenth among defensive tackles that worked out at the Combine. More importantly for the Colts, who value speed over strength at the position, his 40 time would have placed him second at his position and his short shuttle time would have been tenth among all defensive linemen.
Gill has the kind of motor and speed that the Colts are seeking in a defensive tackle and his size would put him in the mold of Ed Johnson, another Big Ten performer that was not ranked highly on draft boards. He certainly needs some work on his technique and tends to overpursue the play, putting him out of position, but he does have rare athletic talent for a prospect ranked so low, which gives him immediate value.
He's currently ranked by Scout.com as the 23rd-best defensive tackle and 259th player overall, which would leave him on the fringe of being taken at the end of the seventh round or facing the prospect of going undrafted.
However, his recent Pro Day performance has given scouts and general managers reason to go back and take another look at the tape. As a result, he will probably go somewhere in the fifth round, but his lack of a Combine invite and the fact that he was not on the early radar of a number of teams will keep him from going much higher than that.
The disconnect in Gill's game occurs when you look at his workout numbers — which compare very favorably to a top shelf prospect such as Evander Hood — and contrast them against his production in college, which does not compare at all to Hood's production at Missouri.
Some of that disconnect is tied to scheme and the fact that teams in Gill's conference focus more on stopping the run than the pass. But ten sacks in 41 starts points to his most likely needing more work and development than the men ranked ahead of him at his position.
Roy Lamberton of PurpleWildcats.com's Purple Reign was able to explain the schematic issues Gill faced at Northwestern, as well as adding some information about Gill as a player. "He was a strong inside presence for the Wildcats in a defense that usually played a 5-2 with him as one of the tackles," Lamberton said. "As such he was the inside run stuffer and was primarily the guy who occupied offensive linemen to allow the middle linebacker access to the backfield. He was among leaders in tackles for loss, and sacks, and quarterback hurries, but the big numbers in the Northwestern defense usually go to safeties — playing up with the linebackers in a 4-4 — or outside linebackers rushing from the edge."
Lamberton added, "When teams doubled up Gill, they gave up tackles to OLBs and DE's. When they tried to go after the DE's, Gill put pressure on the QB although he sometimes was a victim to a "draw play" type offense. He's a smart player who had to change styles last year, but was a real leader on the defense."
Ultimately, a team cannot teach a player to be Gill's size and still be as fast and agile as he is. Sports training programs and camps have inflated numbers in the past, but they can't perform miracles, which means that training and preparation certainly helped him, but he still has an awful lot to work with athletically.
Given that he did not work in a Cover 2 system at Northwestern like the one the Colts deploy, John Teerlinck will find himself with a very moldable and skilled player to tutor. He has done an exceptional job historically, working with older players with more ingrained habits than Gill, so he should be able to fit Gill into the system and make him productive.
In all likelihood, Indianapolis will address their need at the tackle position early in the draft. But, if they find themselves in need of a tackle in the fifth — or with their compensatory selection in the fourth — they won't be able to do much better than Gill and certainly could do a lot worse.
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